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Social Media Campaign Finally Forces Facebook to be Less Pro-Rape

It took some convincing, but they did it.
 
 
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A feud which started on Facebook ended with the early-morning slaying of a young Tennessee couple, found shot in the head with their sobbing baby still clutched in her dead mother's arms, police said.

 

On Tuesday, after more than 60,000 tweets ( #FBRape) and 15 lost advertisers became a rallying call for change, Facebook announced it would no longer allow its hate speech policy to gloss over violent, misogynistic pages like "Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs" and "Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won't make you a Sandwich."

A Facebook spokesperson had previously told ThinkProgress that this kind of content is just  “poor taste” or “crude attempts at humor," not hate speech or anything that serious. Beating women is totally fine, LOL, says Facebook. But put a breast on an educational ad explaining that abortions don't cause breast cancer, and Facebook will shut it down it for violating its ban on " adult products." Maybe if the boob were bleeding, Facebook would have just laughed it off. 

The long-awaited change in hate speech guidelines was prompted by WAM! (Women, Action, and the Media) and Everyday Sexism, which kicked off the campaign to end #FBRape promotion with an open letter and savvy social media strategy last Tuesday.

On Twitter and via E-mail, they pointed advertisers (particularly those that cater to women, like Dove) to  pro-rape/violence-against-women pages on which their ads were displayed, successfully encouraging many of them to denounce Facebook's poor content control and demand change.  
 
Dozens of high-profile activists and groups signed their letter asking Facebook to “Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech," and a coalition of supporters grew to more than one-hundred.

The pressure was enough to make Facebook fold, and reluctantly release a statement outlining new guidelines regarding hate speech. Perhaps now they will patrol misogynistic content just as steadfastly as they do women's health ads!

"We work hard to remove hate speech quickly, however there are instances of offensive content, including distasteful humor, that are not hate speech according to our definition," the statement said, apparently referring to some of the disgusting pages like those mentioned above. Nonetheless, they are accepting some responsibility for the epic lapse in judgement.

"In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want.  In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria," the statement said, "We need to do better – and we will."

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of WAM!, said in a press release that the change is a great victory for female activism. "We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action.”

 

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne

 
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